If you switch on the TV, or read the papers, headlines like these on the Spanish economy can’t escape you. As we move into the next quarter, one can only be hopeful, but looks like not much has changed since two years ago for the people of Spain.
While most of these articles talk about the future, what analysts have to say, how long will it take before things fall into line and what needs to be done, which I think is imperative, my curiosity drove me to find out how this could have impacted people around me. Looking for a different angle to that seen in the mainstream media about Spain’s dwindling economy , I approached my friends and people working in restaurants down the street to find out what they have to say.
At a restaurant in Upper Street, which has a vague spanish exterior, I’m curious to find out if there are any Spanish natives and then comes up Esther Alija, the Assistant Manager at Sangria. Despite the tough economic situation and depressing news about the economy, Esther is upbeat and optimistic. She says,” I came here four years ago to study TV production at the University of Middlesex with plans to go back to my country and work in a TV broadcasting house, but after my graduation I am still here.”
“I can’t go back there, there is not even a job for me in a restaurant. I work here part-time on weekends with shifts in between while I am still looking for work in my field, ” she said.
“My boyfriend is a qualified engineer and he is working as a waiter here in London. The south of Spain is in a worse condition than Madrid, and especially the villages, they are affected the worst,” she added
Prof. Luis Garicano, of London School of Economics said in his blog Nada es Gratis, “Since the beginning of the crisis, the percentage of households unemployed (ie, includes members unemployed or inactive) has increased about 8 percentage points and in about 36 percent of all households.”
Not so long ago, Ade Lozano and myself used to share a house in Sheffield. I wrote to Ade to find out if things were any better since she moved home to Seville last year. Currently unemployed, she said, “I’m an architect and I’ve been unemployed for nearly one and a half year. Unfortunately, the construction sector is one of the worst hit by the economic crisis.”
“Many things have changed since the recession. Job opportunities are close to nothing, even if you are a graduate or you have some work experience. If you are a very lucky excellent door-to-door sales agent or a sales representative you might get a job with some mobile network operator who will also then only pay you if you sell something,” she said.
Garciano shows an interesting statistic of the spanish unemployent levels going back to 1976. According to the EPA , first quarter of 2012 was bad, of the 20.5 million jobs that existed in Spain in the third quarter of 2007, 3 million have been destroyed in the crisis. This represents a 15% loss of existing jobs in 23 quarters, compared with 14% of jobs lost in 10 years of job losses from the crisis that began in 1976.
Without any income, people are compelled to spend less and are monitoring every penny, which has inevitably led to the closing of most small shops and bars in Seville.
Lozano said, ” I would be lying if I said this hasn’t taken a toll on my lifestyle. Certainly, since the recession, I’ve gone shopping only a few times and going out has been less. My social life has been reduced to watching a movie at home or going for a walk with some friends. As I don’t have any income I can’t afford to spend much money on things that are not essential but only those to cover my expenses. This situation has compelled me to change my habits and consume less.”
” The cost of living has gone up and people are consuming less. Cars are something people will not invest in these times and is seen as something as a luxury, ” said a 25 year old receptionist working at the restaurant.
Tatty, another said: Everybody knows the political situation is no good there. There is no work in Spain; I completed a degree in Business Administration and work as a waitress now. There are no jobs at all.”
The anonymous receptionist added, ” I studied in Germany but came here because my friends are here in London. Yes there are no jobs in Spain, but where I come from, Barcelona is still a lot better.”
So what are the reasons for Spain’s economic predicament? “Compared to Germany and France, I think we are worse off because people here are not interested in politics, they aren’t equipped with enough knowledge to fight the big corporations, financiers, politicians and the decision makers which makes it harder,” she added
Having said this, “I am still positive we will get out of it, everyone knows of the Great Depression of 1929 in America, its a cycle, we will come out of it,” she added.